Out and about on WRAL.com
Raleigh, North Carolina – Two months before allegations of workplace misconduct rocked two award-winning restaurants in downtown Raleigh, companies were approved for loans from the Federal Paycheck Protection Program.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan was designed by the Small Business Administration as an incentive for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll. The SBA will cancel loans provided all employee retention criteria are met and funds are used for qualifying expenses.
According to research into the ProPublica database, which compiled a list of businesses that received federal loans of at least $ 150,000, the two restaurants were approved for loans on April 15 from Pinnacle Bank.
Bida Manda LLC is listed as being awarded between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000. Plenty LLC, the parent company of Brewery Bhavana, secured a PPP loan between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million.
The Bhavana and Bida Manda breweries have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Current owners of Bhavana Brewery, Vanvisa Nolintha and Patrick Woodson, announced on Tuesday that they plan to reopen the restaurant soon offering curbside pickup.
In June, former employees of the two restaurants introduced himself to WRAL, describing an environment that involved objectifying male and female employees, allegations of sexual assault, and a culture of silence.
WRAL spoke to 14 former and current restaurant employees. Staff members said it was common for then co-owner Vansana “Van” Nolintha to engage in inappropriate relationships with younger male employees. Former employees also alleged sexual misconduct by Beverage Manager Jordan Hester.
Following the allegations, Van Nolintha, who is Vanvisa’s brother, withdrew from both restaurants, saying he planned to stop serving as a managing partner at the restaurants and hand over his ownership.
Hester was fired from the company after the allegations. WRAL spoke with 10 women, some of whom worked in Bida Manda at the time, who allege that Hester sexually assaulted or harassed them.